Cleaning Up Your Mix – Part 2

In Cleaning Up Your Mix – Part 1, I provided an overview of my personal process for cleaning up sessions before mixing, as well as an overview of what you are trying to achieve by doing this. I also provided some detail about Pitch Correction. In this part, I am going to continue with other important clean up tasks that I like to do to improve my mixes.

Timing Correction

There seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment, where everything seems to be edited or “pocketed” exactly to the beat. My approach, is to just listen to the song, and note down anything that sounds too much out of time, or that is impacting on the feel of the song. Then I go and correct the timing on those parts only. When I correct the timing, I still may not put the instrument directly on the beat. I will adjust the instrument as close to the beat as needed to make it sound good, and “feel” good. 

Automatically moving an instrument to the beat can lead you down a path of never ending correction. One instrument adjustment leads to adjusting another instrument and then another. If you sit back and look at the big picture you might find that the entire recording is not exactly on the beat as it was played live in a studio. As such, you should not correct everything to the beat either. It is all about getting all the instruments to play nicely together and not look correct in your DAW.

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Noise (pops, clicks, hum, mouth noises etc)

The first step again is listen to the song. Note anything down that is obvious. These are the items you will want to fix first. The first way to get rid of most noises is to cut all the silent sections out of each track.. This can take a little bit of time but not only does it remove all the noises in tracks where nothing is going on but it can also make your DAW work more efficiently as it isn’t processing audio on tracks that aren’t doing anything. 

Then after that I will use a tool like iZotope RX to remove the pops, clicks, and hum from each track that I feel needs it. Generally I will pay particular attention to the vocal tracks as I find they are the tracks that have the most noise. Depending on the amount of compression you use on your vocal tracks, it is also very easy to boost these noises making them more obvious. iZotope de-click is very good at getting rid of not only general clicks but also mouth clicks and lip smacks, which really annoy me.

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Vocal Breath

Sometimes you will get a song that has a vocal track with a lot of heavy breathing. The point of this task is not to remove breath noises altogether because breathing is what makes a vocal sound real. It can also give a sense of the effort and level of emotion a vocalist is putting into the song. There are times though that the breath noises are so loud that it is just plain annoying.

If this is the case then I will go through each vocal track and use clip gain to reduce the volume of just the breaths that are annoying me. We want the vocal performance to still sound real but without annoying people in the process. If you want an extra level of control then you could cut the track up and place all the breaths on their own track separate from the vocal performance. Then you can apply compression or other effects to the vocal track without it affecting the breaths.

 

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Drum Bleed

Sometimes there is a need to edit the drum tracks due to drum bleed. If the quality of the recording is good then I might not worry about this at all. Drum bleed can make the drums feel real. If you remove all the bleed the drums can start to feel fake and sample sounding. Unless there is something really wrong with the recording then I might generally look at editing the Tom tracks only.

What I like to do before I make the decision to edit the Tom tracks is to listen to each one in solo. What I’m listening for is how it sounds when the Toms are not being hit. If I hear a lot of rumble and vibration occurring in the Toms just from the impact of the other drums in the kit and it doesn’t sound pleasant, then I will start to edit. Also if I find that some of the other drums like the Snare or the Cymbals are extremely loud in the Tom tracks then again I will cut them out. I play the song through and just cut up the track for when the Toms play and remove or mute all the sections in between.

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Whenever you are editing any track make sure that all of your cuts are cleaned up with a fade at the start and the end of each new clip you have made. This will prevent any clicks from being introduced from the editing process defeating all of your hard work. It might seem like a lot of work at the start but the more you do theses steps the faster you get at it. To make the process less annoying and painful, I generally like to put on one of my favorite albums and listen to that while I cut, trim, and fade my project to perfection.

If you missed the first Part of Kevin De Witt’s series on Cleaning Up Your Mix, just Click Here!

 

If you have any questions or topics that you would like to learn more about or see more of on MixCoach, be sure to write us at support@mixcoach.com

 

By Kevin de Wit

Kevin de Wit is a Mixing and Mastering engineer for artists all over the world. Please feel free to check out his work at http://www.kdwmixingmastering.com/

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